My Favorite Books of 2021 & an Invite to Read with Me

What a year, y’all. Not quite as recovered from this whole pandemic thing as we’d hope. But, whatcha gonna do?

Me? I read. A lot. So I thought I’d share some of my 2021 favorites and extend an open invite to join my 2022 reading adventures.

After my list of 2021 favorites, find the details on my Book Club with the first book of the year. Sign up and I’ll send  a monthly invite for a virtual Book Club session. Connect with me on GoodReads for past and current reads as well as my reading list.

My 2021 book report starts with an unexpected discovery: Audio Books.

Honestly, audio books were something I’ve long shunned. But in February 2021 I heard an interview with Matthew McConaughey on his memoir, “Greenlights” and I had to read it. Now.

As you know, I live in Italy. In that moment, Greenlights was a new release that had not made it to my side of the pond. My options were crazy shipping prices via Amazon or audio book. 

Begrudgingly I told myself that I could cheat just this once and have the story read to me.

Ohhh. Myyyyy. Gawddddd.

Mr. McConaughey reads the book himself! It was like being inside his head.

The world of audio took my book experience to a new place, opening up an entirely different perspective and experience. To hear inflection points, tones, pauses – direct from the author! I chuckle at my hubris; 10 months later, 17 finished audio books in my Audible library.

Below, find my 2021 book lists outlined by physical read and audio book.

My FAVORITE READS OF 2021

We start with my favorite reads of 2021, ranked in order. Then, the invite to my book club. After My Favorites list and Book Club invite, find a complete list of my 2021 reads with title, author, and a few words or sentences on my thoughts for each.

  1. The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd
  2. small great things, Jodi Picoult
  3. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens
  4. My Notorious Life, Kate Manning
  5. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng
  6. Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey
  7. Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help us Grow, Elizabeth Lesser
  8. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond, Elizabeth Gilbert
  9. Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
  10. Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World, Tara Brach
  11. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  12. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters, Priya Parker

Join my 2022 Book Club

One thing that was missing for me in my 2021 reads was sharing the experience. So, I want to invite you to read with me in 2022. Sign up for my book club with a monthly book read and date / time for a virtual session.

Nothing formal, just good old fashioned connection over reading (or listening!)

January 2022: Let Me Tell You What I Mean, Joan Didion

  • Why I picked it: We all have special books that help us for different reasons in different seasons. Then there are the few that change us. That break us open to new ways of thinking. New ways of being. Joan Didion’s A Year of Magical Thinking is one of my few change makers, something I read shortly after its release in 2007. Her raw, haunting prose on grief helped me to understand how my mind deals with trauma and the resulting grief. Her words showed me how the mind is so delicate and fragile, yet more powerful than I can grasp – as humans, both our greatest strength and most enduring weakness. In the wake of Didion’s passing, I wanted to find a way to honor her and what her words did for me – what they did and continue to do for so many. I considered re-reading The Year of Magical Thinking for this first session, but after the past few years, it’s too raw for me and I expect it might be the same for many just now. One day I’ll go back to it, but not today. I recommend it with my entire heart. For January, I chose Ms. Didion’s final published book, which came out in January 2021. A collection of essays from her early writing days. Looking in the rearview of her writing byway felt like a poignant way to pay her tribute. I do hope you join me.
  • Date: Sunday 6 February 2022
  • Time: 5 p.m. CET (Italy time) | 11 a.m. ET | 8 a.m. PT
  • Signup: Please sign up here and I will send out a Zoom link prior to the call.

CLICK: BOOK CLUB SIGN-UP

Complete List of my 2021 Reads

Not really sure why, but I did this list in two categories – book read to myself and audio book. They feel like different experiences, so I thought to break them out as such.

If you aren’t already, follow me on Instagram and find a Story Highlight with my immediate reactions on many of the books I read this year.

Book Read

  1. A Promised Land, Barack Obama. Wow, this book took me back to a time where we hiding behind the siren songs of hope. I was completely engrossed. And please don’t tell Michelle, I’ve still not finished Becoming. 
  2. Heart Talk: Poetic Wisdom, Cleo Wade. More than just the words, her artistic use of text added a different kind of joy. 
  3. WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game, Abby Wambach. Meh, I was disappointed. 
  4. A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckart Tolle. I bought this book a few years ago and struggled to start it. Don’t be discouraged if you pick it up and put it down again. It will tell you when it’s time. 
  5. Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton. This book made me feel so completely normal. Something I needed so deeply that I was able to overlook her painful snub of the oxford comma. 
  6. Something I’ve Been Meaning to Tell You: 13 Stories, Alice Munro. Her words make the ordinary extraordinary. 
  7. My Notorious Life, Kate Manning. So many parts of U.S. history I didn’t even know about, through the eyes of a woman who had a profound effect on many. Women’s health. The Orphan Train. Rags to Riches. The American Dream; and isn’t part of that tearing down those we’ve put upon the pedestal? It’s all there in a masterfully written tale, loosely based the historical account of one midwife.  
  8. The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters, Priya Parker. The perfect read for me just before travel restarted, reviewing the gatherings that I design. 
  9. The Book of Longings, Sue Monk Kidd. Oh, this book. Breathtaking. Not just my favorite book of the year…perhaps my lifetime. The fictional story of Jesus of Nazareth’s wife Ana. Her daring and audacity shook me to my core. Oh to have her sense of self…
  10. Circe, Madeline Miller. I’m not usually into sci-fi; I prefer the human condition and somehow Greek Mythology never felt in that camp. But, Madeline Miller gave Circe such humanity, touching me in ways I never expected from a Greek Goddess. 
  11. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway. Utter brilliance. I imagine I’d have been baffled by it in my youth. Somehow, it feels important that I own that truth. 
  12. Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World, Tara Brach. If only books like this could be required school reads.
  13. My Own Words, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. RBG, thank you. Just thank you. 
  14. Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit. The book is filled with uncomfortable essays and ideas. Read them and sit with these painful truths. That is my best suggestion. 
  15. The Giver of Stars, Jojo Moyes. What a ride. The Packhorse Librarians, an endeavor by First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a beautiful idea, getting books to aid and educate in remote parts of the South. But the sisterhood in the story gave me life. 
  16. The Gifts of Imperfection, Brené Brown. Ah, Brené, thank you for being you. 
  17. Cassandra Speaks: When Women Are the Storytellers, the Human Story Changes, Elizabeth Lesser. I had a different expectation going into this book, so admittedly that colored my view. Very good and thought provoking ideas, but perhaps too many and more focus on a few would have been more powerful. 
  18. Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg. Not a book, an experience. My heart races again at the very thought of putting pen to paper. 
  19. Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens. Haunting and hypnotic. My hot take: Delia Owens’ book resonates so universally because its core theme is loneliness. Something not one of us escapes. 
  20. Dirt: Adventures, Family in the Kitchens of Lyon, Looking for the Origins of French Cooking, Bill Buford. I should have realized from the title that this would be long-winded. I am so enamored with french cooking, I missed the obvious clue that it requires patience. So does french cooking, but I’m pretty sure all the steps there are necessary, unlike all his words. Definitely didn’t make me long for a trip to Lyon, as I envisioned. But, alas, I got some delicious bits. 
  21. The Refugees, Viet Thanh Nguyen. A harrowing look at the life of refugees and Vietnam through a collection of beautifully written short stories. 
  22. Little Fires Everywhere, Celeste Ng. I am still processing this book. And, there is a lot to process. Never has a title seemed more accurate to me. I finished in about four sittings and knew I was being transported to a different place every time I opened it back up. 
  23. small great things, Jodi Picoult. The book is about racism. It’s messy and real, and painfully uncomfortable. I let it sit on my book shelf for nearly a year because the plot felt so heavy. It was more so than I expected, but ignoring it does not make it go away.

Audio Book

  1. Greenlights, Matthew McConaughey. I loved everything about this book and having it read to me by Matthew himself made it so much more powerful. But my time with it’s not done. I must read it to myself, too. 
  2. Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, Mika Brzezinski. Make sure you get the updated version. Apple Books gave me the older one and I was quite surprised the mind set not all that long ago. That in and of itself was eye opening. 
  3. Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Anxiety and Energize Joy, Sherianna Boyle. Dug the concept and theory. 
  4. How to do the Work, Nicole LePera. Same as above, but have since read some questionable things about the author, so am not going to heavily recommend it. 
  5. You are the Guru, Gabrielle Bernstein. Love the meditations.
  6. Judgement Detox, Gabrielle Bernstein. Finished the book, still working the concept. 
  7. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, Adam Grant. Eye opening. I follow him on Instagram and love the way his mind works. 
  8. A Radical Awakening, Dr. Shefali Tsabary. Sometimes, we just need to open our eyes to what’s in front of us. 
  9. What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing, Bruce P. Perry with Oprah Winfrey. Instead of asking ‘what is wrong with you’, start asking ‘what happened to you’.  
  10. Healing Collective Trauma, Thomas Hubl. I’m so glad this topic is more in the forefront. 
  11. Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help us Grow, Elizabeth Lesser. Especially poignant after the past two years. 
  12. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King. His humor, his self-assurance, his honesty. 
  13. Hungry Hearts: Essays on Courage, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh. Felt a little rushed and not sure I got from it what it hoped to deliver. 
  14. Braving the Wilderness: The quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone, Brené Brown. Sigh, again, this woman is my hero. 
  15. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou. Maya Angelou reads it. Ah, that voice. 
  16. After the Rain: Gentle Reminders for Healing, Courage, and Self-Love, Alexandra Elle. This book felt like a soothing cream to my soul. She does a little meditative thought to finish each chapter, which I used as journalling prompts. 
  17. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond, Elizabeth Gilbert. Confession: I hated Eat, Pray, Love. I couldn’t put it down because I loved the writing, but I thought Ms. Gilbert the most entitled woman on the planet. Not sure what possessed me to select this book. But it was, as the title says, MAGIC.

Please share your favorite reads and what’s on your list for 2022. Leave a message or reach out!

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